Is High School Academic Purgatory? [SLIDE]

Blogger’s Note: My thinking here is unpolished.  I’m wrestling with the time-honored notion that one of the primary purposes of high school is to prepare kids for college.  As a teacher, that’s always rubbed me a little wrong.  Not sure I have the answers, but I wanted to have the conversation.  Looking forward to hearing what you think. 


A comment from my buddy Patrick Larkin got me thinking tonight.  In response to my thoughts about the usefulness of grades as a form of feedback in schools, he wrote:

“My son is just completing his freshman year of high school and has been on high honors throughout the year. Unfortunately, he is focused solely on what he needs to do to get the A and not much more. For some classes that means putting in a lot of effort and for others…not so much.

I am more worried about what he is learning than just his grade. I would not even mind a C if I could see that he was being forced to challenge himself and think deeply. I see little passion for what he is learning about, so while the good grades are certainly a bonus, the grades certainly don’t mean a heck of a lot.”

Sound’s familiar, doesn’t it?  In the eyes of kids like Patrick’s son, high school isn’t a place for learning.  Instead, high school is nothing more than academic purgatory a place to aimlessly toil until they’ve paid the price necessary for admission into “higher education.”

(click image to enlarge)



(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

Are we okay with that?  Are we okay with the suggestion that preparing kids for college — places that many students find to be nothing more than ANOTHER pointless academic grind — should be one of the primary goals of our public schools.  More importantly, is preparing kids for college SO important that we’re willing to let kids like Patrick’s son lose any sense of the passion and purpose that drives learners?

Can we REALLY say that being “college ready” and “career ready” are one in the same?

I guess what I’m asking is just HOW important IS college?


Related Radical Reads:

Are Grades Utterly Useless?

What DO We Want Kids to Know and Be Able to Do?

Stuffing Kids with Content [SLIDE]



2 thoughts on “Is High School Academic Purgatory? [SLIDE]

  1. Derek Hatch (Hatcherelli)

    Hi Bill,
    Great topic for discussion. One would think that if we are preparing kids for life that we would be preparing them for post-secondary, as well. But I have always said that there is a huge disconnect between the expectations of high school and those of post-secondary institutions. Colleges and universities are all about the grades and they fill up their programs based on a student’s high school grades. I don’t see the whole grading structure changing until colleges change.
    The thing that totally makes me scratch my head is that way less than half of our graduating high school kids will attend college/university.
    I look forward to seeing how this conversation plays out.

  2. Deb Kitchener

    Sadly I agree with your thinking and until we engage our respective systems in wholesale change both HS and college/university will continue to be gatekeepers to life.

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